- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 5, 2000

Al Gore yesterday rebuked George W. Bush for hammering at the vice president about campaign fund-raising tactics in their first presidential debate Tuesday.

In his first public appearance since sparring with the Texas governor, Mr. Gore opened a rally in Warren, Ohio, trying to turn the attacks back on Mr. Bush.

"Did you see the debate last night?" Mr. Gore asked a cheering crowd of several thousand people at the rally. "Personally, I think it's better to spend time attacking America's problems than attacking people personally.

"I think it's time to make our country an even better country instead of trying to make another candidate out to be a bad person," the vice president continued. "I think we need to build our country up instead of tearing somebody else down."

While Mr. Gore campaigned in Ohio, Mr. Bush began a tour of another battleground state Pennsylvania. There, the Texas governor reminded voters of Mr. Gore's plans, which Mr. Bush said will make him "the biggest government spender we've seen in decades."

"Believe it or not, he's proposed three times more spending in this campaign than Governor Bill Clinton did [in 1992]," Mr. Bush told an enthusiastic throng in West Chester, a Philadelphia suburb. "That's an amazing achievement."

Mr. Bush seemed buoyed yesterday by his performance in the first of three presidential debates Tuesday night in Boston.

Before leaving Massachusetts yesterday, he received the endorsement of the state police association and said the debate had given him a platform from which to attack Mr. Gore.

"I look forward to campaigning throughout the Midwest, talking about the sharp differences, reminding people that during the debate, the idea of growing the federal government was the predominant theme of the vice president," Mr. Bush said.

He wasted little time employing that strategy, emphasizing the issue before a crowd of about 2,500 at the West Chester University field house.

"This is a huge expansion of government," Mr. Bush said of the Democrat's spending proposals. "It's not going to happen under President George Bush."

Mr. Bush also repeated a theme of recent days that Mr. Gore's budget plans would give more power to the Internal Revenue Service.

"Even more amazing about his vision of the future, his targeted tax cut requires new IRS agents to make sure those who are targeted actually get something," he said.

The Texas governor spoke with the fervor of a candidate winding down the final 48 hours of a presidential campaign, although Election Day is still five weeks off.

"I don't care what your party is," Mr. Bush said. "Get in that booth and vote for George W. Bush. I want your help."

The candidates' performance in Tuesday's debate and the issues raised in the 90-minute showdown followed the candidates' speeches and interviews yesterday.

Told yesterday by Jane Clayson of CBS-TV's "Early Show" that some viewers found his performance "haughty" and "condescending," Mr. Gore replied: "I don't see that. You know, it's in the eye of the beholder and the ear of the beholder."

He added that some viewers will "just react the way they will. But I felt awful good about the debate."

His boss agreed. At the conclusion of the debate, President Clinton telephoned his would-be successor with words of approval.

"He said he thought it went very well," Mr. Gore said.

Mr. Gore has tried to keep the scandal-plagued president at arm's length during the campaign, but Mr. Clinton keeps popping into the discourse.

On Tuesday, for example, Mr. Bush said the Clinton-Gore ticket campaigned on the promise of a prescription-drug benefit in 1992 and 1996, but never delivered.

Katie Couric of NBC's "Today" picked up that argument yesterday when she asked Mr. Gore: "Why should we believe that President Gore could accomplish something on prescription drugs that a two-term Clinton-Gore administration could not?"

"Well, it's just now risen to the top of the agenda," he replied. "And I promise you, if I'm entrusted with the presidency, we will have a prescription-drug benefit for all seniors under Medicare."

Meanwhile yesterday, the Bush campaign took pains to counter what officials viewed as Mr. Gore's potentially damaging debate rhetoric about Mr. Bush's tax cuts benefiting primarily the wealthy.

Mr. Bush told the audience in West Chester that his plan to lower the top federal income-tax bracket from 39.6 percent to 33 percent would total $149 billion over 10 years, about 11 percent of his total tax-relief package of $1.3 trillion.

"I believe the American people can sift through the difference between real numbers and fuzzy math," Mr. Bush said. "[Mr. Gore] leads by trying to frighten seniors and taxpayers in the voting booth."

Mr. Gore holds a double-digit lead over Mr. Bush in the latest poll in Pennsylvania, which has 23 electoral votes.

The state's Republican governor, Tom Ridge, introduced Mr. Bush at yesterday's rally by saying the Texas governor won the debate because "he didn't lecture us."

"He was the only candidate on stage who didn't talk down to the American people," Mr. Ridge said. "Vice President Gore may be very skilled as a debater, but even the president of the forensics society would have a very tough time defending that big-spending, Washington-knows-best, I-don't-trust-you agenda."

Mr. Ridge said that the debate "wasn't just a debate between two candidates."

"It was a contest between two visions of the future and Governor Bush's vision won hands down," he said.

Mr. Gore, who has been widely criticized for taking millions from the entertainment industry, finished yesterday with a fund-raiser at the mansion of rock star Jon Bon Jovi in New Jersey.

Mr. Bush also visited Ohio last night and plans campaign stops this week in the key swing states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and Florida as well.

The two men will debate again Wednesday in Winston-Salem, N.C.

• Bill Sammon, traveling with Al Gore, reported from Warren, Ohio; Dave Boyer, traveling with George W. Bush, reported from West Chester, Pa.

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